Cattle Decapitation - Death Atlas review




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Reviewer:
8.1

94 users:
8.24
Band: Cattle Decapitation
Album: Death Atlas
Release date: November 2019


01. Anthropogenic: End Transmission [feat. Riccardo Conforti]
02. The Genocide
03. Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts
04. Vulturous
05. The Great Dying [feat. Melissa Lucas-Harlow]
06. One Day Closer To The End Of The World
07. Bring Back The Plague
08. Absolute Destitute
09. The Great Dying II
10. Finish Them
11. With All Disrespect
12. Time's Cruel Curtain
13. The Unerasable Past [feat. John Fishamn & Tony Parker]
14. Death Atlas [feat. Laure Le Prunenec]
15. An Extreme Indifference To Human Life [bonus]
16. In The Kingdom Of The Blind, The One-Eyed Are Kings [Dead Can Dance cover] [feat. Ottone Pesante] [bonus]


How much is too much of a good thing? Travis Ryan is on a quest to find out.

I've always thought of Ryan as one of the truly outstanding extreme metal vocalists; his sheer range is jawdropping, from growls and grunts to screams and shrieks. However, one thing that really set him apart was the sickening 'clean vocals' he could dig out, used in small doses to add a jarring and grotesque edge to the likes of "Regret And The Grave" and "Your Disposal", and instantly committing "A Living, Breathing Piece Of Defecating Meat" to memory forever. These more melodic vocals increased in prominence on Cattle Decapitation's last outing, The Anthropocene Extinction, cameoing in most songs, but without necessarily dominating the album's sound. Well, on Death Atlas, the band have really gone all in, with this not only being their most melodic record to date, but also their longest at 55 minutes, with one song approaching the 10-minute mark. How well does Cattle Decapitation pull off this next step of their evolution?

This isn't a radical reinvention by any means; from the blistering first few seconds of "The Geocide", it's clear the instrumental intensity is still as powerful as ever, and the song soon transitions into the type of slick verse groove that Cattle Decapitation are so adept at balancing with the blast beats and machine gun riffs. Additionally, the first moments of the chorus of "Be Still Our Bleeding Hearts" are imbued with the degenerate filth that the band specialize in. A greater focus on more melodic vocals does offer up more slow 'timeouts' - "One Day Closer To The End Of The World", for example, has a "Living, Breathing Piece"-style sung/blast beats chorus, but slows things down for its grandstand second half. Ultimately, however, whilst the proportions of their different instrumental approaches may have shifted to a minor degree, it's nothing out of the ordinary based on their development since The Harvest Floor, and there's little here on the instrumental approach that is going to shock listeners, although the solo that suddenly turns up midway through "Vulturous" is jolting in the best way.

The vocal side, however, throws up more surprises. As mentioned earlier on, Travis Ryan covers the whole gamut of extreme styles, all of which get chances to shine, from the sickening grunts that close "Bring Back The Plague", to the high-pitched shrieks that so perfectly complement the album's more breakneck moments and the almost falsetto gargles that close "Absolute Destitute". Additionally, a more melodic side to his vocals isn't new; heck, "Kingdom Of Tyrants", with its putrid 'sung' chorus, was the song that got me into Cattle Decapitation in the first place. What's new is the range of different approaches, from the eerie, almost spoken word midsection of "Absolute Destitute" and the low-range borderline-crooning that briefly pops up in "Death Atlas", to the clearer high-pitched vocals that star on "With All Disrespect", and particularly during extended sections of the singles "One Day Closer to The End Of The World" and "Bring Back The Plague".

I was pretty excited to hear more of the semi-melodic vocals, given how much I've enjoyed their previous songs that featured them prominently, but each time as the album progresses, I start wondering whether they're reaching the saturation point where they begin to lose their memorability. Additionally, these higher-pitched vocals can still carry some of the filth that they embodied on Monolith Of Humanity, such as on "Time's Cruel Certain" and "Be Still Our Beating Hearts"; however, as they've become clearer and more refined, I feel like at times, they're almost becoming too 'good' for their own good? The demented vibe and rough edges only added to their appeal on previous albums, but in the times where they cross over into actual singing, not only is this appeal diminished by a degree, but some of the limitations of Ryan as a clean vocalist begin to become slightly exposed. I felt this most keenly on "Bring Back The Plague", which ended up being perhaps my least favourite cut from Death Atlas, although by no means without considerable merit.

These gripes aside, I feel that Death Atlas is another solid addition to the Cattle Decapitation catalogue. However, I also think that whilst most songs make for good listening, there wasn't anything on here as far as the regular songs go that really reached out and grabbed me in the way the likes of "Lifestalker", "Your Disposal", "Regret And The Grave" or "Manufactured Extinct" previously have. However, making up for this is the aforementioned title track; at 9 minutes, "Death Atlas" is a most ambitious effort for a band that started off pumping out songs below the 60-second mark, and they pull it off surprisingly deftly. A one-track microcosm of everything modern Cattle Decapitation is capable of skilfully combined into a cohesive and diverse journey, "Death Atlas" features many of the album's finest instrumental and vocal moments, and makes for a compelling closing statement, particularly as siren-esque female vocals soar over the final, fading dirge-like chords.

Ultimately, Cattle Decapitation unearthed a game-changing weapon when they began to fully explore the limits of Ryan's vocals, and combined with their continual growth instrumentally, the band has only gone from strength to strength in the past decade. As such, it makes sense to continue to explore the boundaries of their current approach, and whilst I don't think Death Atlas is quite the equal of the two records that preceded it, it's a worthy next step on their impressive journey, and finishes on a truly impressive high note with the epic title track.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 8
Production: 9


 



Written on 26.11.2019 by I'm just a guy with an opinion.


Comments

Comments: 7   Visited by: 112 users
27.11.2019 - 08:34
Troy Killjoy
perfunctionist
I can't wait to hear this in its entirety live next week. I've been following them for a while now and to finally see them live is going to be awesome. I haven't listened to it yet but it's right at the top of the list so I won't be going in blind. Hopefully I feel the same about it as you do. Great review as usual.
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27.11.2019 - 10:53
musclassia
Written by Troy Killjoy on 27.11.2019 at 08:34

I can't wait to hear this in its entirety live next week. I've been following them for a while now and to finally see them live is going to be awesome. I haven't listened to it yet but it's right at the top of the list so I won't be going in blind. Hopefully I feel the same about it as you do. Great review as usual.


I unfortunately had to miss them when they played London last month, but I saw them in 2017 and thought they put on a great show. Bold of them to do the album in full when touring it but if you like their last couple of albums I'd imagine you'll like this a fair amount, in which case it should be a cool show. The title track should sound pretty sick live
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28.11.2019 - 00:42
Troy Killjoy
perfunctionist
Written by musclassia on 27.11.2019 at 10:53

I unfortunately had to miss them when they played London last month, but I saw them in 2017 and thought they put on a great show. Bold of them to do the album in full when touring it but if you like their last couple of albums I'd imagine you'll like this a fair amount, in which case it should be a cool show. The title track should sound pretty sick live

This made me realize I'm being presumptuous in saying they'll be performing the album in full. I just assumed they would to promote the album but now that I think about it, it's never been explicitly stated.

I've enjoyed all of their releases with the exception of some of their back catalog, so it would take a massive departure to disappoint me.
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28.11.2019 - 00:45
Starvynth
i c deaf people
I really like the idea that you've mentioned some of the best tracks of their present career. Without "Your Disposal", I wouldn't even know this band - and I love that song and "Regret & The Grave", "The Carbon Stampede", "A Living, Breathing Peace Of Defecating Meat", "Mammals In Babylon" and "Pacific Grim" for exactly the same reason you've stated: Travis Ryan is an incredibly impressive vocalist, his diversity and range is just insane.

I believe I can safely say that Cattle Decap is one of the very few deathgrind acts capable of writing songs so catchy and memorable that it'll be easier to forever forget the horrible sound of fingernails scraping across a chalkboard than to cleanse your aural memory of the refrains of "Kingdom Of Tyrants" and "Plagueborne".

But then you've scared the hell out of me:

Quote:
I also think that whilst most songs make for good listening, there wasn't anything on here as far as the regular songs go that really reached out and grabbed me in the way the likes of "Lifestalker", "Your Disposal", "Regret And The Grave" or "Manufactured Extinct" previously have.
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28.11.2019 - 15:43
musclassia
Written by Starvynth on 28.11.2019 at 00:45

I really like the idea that you've mentioned some of the best tracks of their present career. Without "Your Disposal", I wouldn't even know this band - and I love that song and "Regret & The Grave", "The Carbon Stampede", "A Living, Breathing Peace Of Defecating Meat", "Mammals In Babylon" and "Pacific Grim" for exactly the same reason you've stated: Travis Ryan is an incredibly impressive vocalist, his diversity and range is just insane.

I believe I can safely say that Cattle Decap is one of the very few deathgrind acts capable of writing songs so catchy and memorable that it'll be easier to forever forget the horrible sound of fingernails scraping across a chalkboard than to cleanse your aural memory of the refrains of "Kingdom Of Tyrants" and "Plagueborne".

But then you've scared the hell out of me:

Quote:
I also think that whilst most songs make for good listening, there wasn't anything on here as far as the regular songs go that really reached out and grabbed me in the way the likes of "Lifestalker", "Your Disposal", "Regret And The Grave" or "Manufactured Extinct" previously have.



I think Cattle Decap is the only band tagged as 'grind'-anything that I would say I'm genuinely fond of (and Regret and The Grave aside, I only really know their stuff from this decade), because they're able to combine the manic aggression with memorable hooks. It's now been a couple of days since I got the promo and gave it a few spins, and the only part I can recall is the clean vocal part from Bring Back The Plague, which I wasn't that fond of, but I think it's quite likely that with prolonged exposure at least a few of the other songs would reach a similar level to the songs you and I have mentioned, so I wouldn't be too concerned. Agree with all your song choices as well, these last two albums were just killer for this type of sound.
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01.12.2019 - 11:48
nikarg
Old Nick
Written by musclassia on 28.11.2019 at 15:43

I think Cattle Decap is the only band tagged as 'grind'-anything that I would say I'm genuinely fond of...

Same here.

This album is growing on me with every listen. It's true that it relies a lot on Ryan's vocals and it probably cannot be labelled as simply deathgrind anymore. The pace is a lot less frenetic, there is a lot of death metal and even black metal in it, and it is the most melodic and progressive album they have ever done. It has so many hooks that make it their most accessible release for those that don't know the band, and I think it is going to bring them new crowd that will show interest in their back catalogue. I'm not sure if it is on par with their last three excellent albums, but it is successfully concluding a decade of very strong releases.

I mostly agree with the review and I understand what you are saying about the vocals "almost becoming too 'good' for their own good" but I have to say that I enjoyed this shift. Most tracks grabbed me, but after four or five listens the title track and "Time's Cruel Curtain" stand out for me.
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01.12.2019 - 15:07
musclassia
Written by nikarg on 01.12.2019 at 11:48


Same here.

This album is growing on me with every listen. It's true that it relies a lot on Ryan's vocals and it probably cannot be labelled as simply deathgrind anymore. The pace is a lot less frenetic, there is a lot of death metal and even black metal in it, and it is the most melodic and progressive album they have ever done. It has so many hooks that make it their most accessible release for those that don't know the band, and I think it is going to bring them new crowd that will show interest in their back catalogue. I'm not sure if it is on par with their last three excellent albums, but it is successfully concluding a decade of very strong releases.

I mostly agree with the review and I understand what you are saying about the vocals "almost becoming too 'good' for their own good" but I have to say that I enjoyed this shift. Most tracks grabbed me, but after four or five listens the title track and "Time's Cruel Curtain" stand out for me.


I need to give it another listen now that I've had a few days' break from it, haven't found the time yet - hoping when I go back to the songs the hooks will be instantly familiar again, that will be a good sign. The title track seemed like the obvious highlight when I was spinning it for this review, right up with their best work that particular song.
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